Thursday, September 5, 2013

Job applications: Priorities.

And so it begins. Job season.

This recent comic from Jorge Cham, where the joke is about your postdoc really being a time for applying for jobs, seemed fitting right now as I am working on my applications. Well, partly.

For most tenure track academic jobs in science you need to have a cover letter, CV, research statement, and a teaching statement. Various schools may have different requirements for the content of each of these, and may request additional materials, but these form the base of your application package.

My CV is updated, and I recently finished my research and teaching statements, and am now working on my cover letter. Yay! It is a lot of work, but will be worth it (or at least that's what I need to tell myself). I might even share them here, if there's any interest in seeing/reading them. Let me know!

These statements are valuable because there are so many applicants, and each of us needs to distinguish ourselves, and show the search committee what we'll be bringing to the table. But, they are only the beginning of the story. After submitting all of your materials, if you are lucky enough to get a job interview, you prepare one, or two, presentations to show your past research, and perhaps your future research plans. You also get to spend one to three days meeting with lots of awesome scientists at the University where you are interviewing. Yes, you get to. When else will you have such a tremendous opportunity to sit down and have 30-60 minutes of undivided attention of such a diverse group of researchers?

Then, you wait. And hope.

You still have a life.
But, you'll notice I said "partly" above. And that recent comic only partly describes my current state because I really don't see applying to jobs as my full-time job. I still have research to do, revisions to submit, papers and grants to write, students to mentor, and, a life to live! Yes, I am definitely spending a lot of time preparing my materials, and I won't be as productive in lab because of it, but job applications are not my only goal. Yes, I am really hoping I get a job this year (please, please, please), but I understand that it is intensely competitive, and there is a chance (however much I don't want to admit it) that I won't be a fit at the Universities that have openings this year. Sure, it would stink to be rejected, again, and again, and again. Yeah, it will stink a lot. But, I'm a scientist; it's part of the gig. I feel like, if I'm able to make some modicum of progress on my projects during this time, then regardless of the job outcome, the process would only be a failure if I let it distract me so much that I drop the ball completely on all my other responsibilities. It will be a failure if I stop enjoying this:

Riding the steam trains at Tilden Park
Family playtime at Children's Fairyland in Oakland
after a run around Lake Merritt 

Just goofing off, because we can.



Unknown said...

Little bear is becoming more and more beautiful: ) Best wishes for her!

Marcoli said...

I have been involved in some search committees. Maybe I am stating the obvious, but a big make-or-break factor for candidates is whether they are seen as a good 'fit' for the department. In the research area that means you should not be too similar to someone else already there. Of course another important edge is to have as much teaching experience as possible. The teaching statement should not just be full of platitudes, but is instead a detailed description of your experiences, and how you worked to become a better teacher. Be sure that the research statement and teaching statement is tailored to each position you are applying for. Refer directly to the research areas that you compliment, and the teaching areas that you think you can do.
Oh, and the place I am at now really likes candidates that already know about the faculty and what they do. Realistically that means you should know about the department chair, the search committee chair, and maybe some of the more established faculty. That too might be important.